D: Joe Johnston. DP: Shelly Johnson W: Andrew Kevin Walker & David Self (based on 1941 screenplay for The Wolf Man by Curt Siodmak). Starring: Benicio Del Toro/Anthony Hopkins/Emily Blunt/Hugo Weaving/Art Malik/Roger Frost/Geraldine Chaplin.
For all those smart moviegoers who opted out of seeing Valentine’s Day (2010) this weekend the alternative selection is surely nothing. but entertainment. Shot entirely in England, The Wolfman doesn’t, like it’s competitor, offer complexity or riveting nuanced moments of cinema. But, hey, at least this one is exciting!
Who is the wolfman you may ask? Well, if you haven’t seen a preview, you will surely (at least) enjoy the transformations of Benicio Del Toro into Lawrence Talbot’s wolfman. Handling a standard American accent, Del Toro gets to be (gasp) an actor in this film’s story and handle the gruesome transformation that ensues after a bite from a beast. Physically commanding, and dressed the part, Del Toro’s seems comfortable on screen and truly commits to his investigation of the beast and his ultimate change of lifestyle. Unfortunately for him though, the best parts of his performance are when he changes into the wolfman and runs amok.
Of course, something must be said about the make-up, special effects, art and costume departments who put together such convincing transformations. Not only are the scenes exciting, but they are believable (apparently it took 3 hours to apply the wolfman make-up and an hour to remove it from Del Toro)! Audiences get Del Toro’s wolf side running through London on all fours, howling at the moon, ripping people apart, but they also get to witness his purposeful destruction of certain characters and Shakespearean revenge against his father, Anthony Hopkin’s Sir John Talbot. Hopkins is clearly enjoying toting a shotgun and living amidst filth her. but seriously, who better to bait the beast than him? Exactly.
Miss Blunt is as good as she can be as Gwen, the betrothed to Del Toro’s brother Ben (Simon Merrells) who is the first victim of the beast’s fury. She is far too qualified to barely shiver, quiver, and only have a storyline that involves murky romance that mysterious shifts from one man to, uh, his brother? The role is also horribly underdeveloped as the script leaves her without history, context, or social standing. Blunt appears to work/own an antique shop, which is neither explained or even made plausible for the time period. At least Blunt’s Gwen exerts some independence and strength, but it’s all too little in the end.
Yet Wolfman somehow has all the right elements too, with Danny Elfman providing a suspenseful score that compliments the gloriously Gothic production design by Rick Heinrichs and supervising art director Andy Nicholson. With plenty of mist, foreboding forests, hives of gypsies, and a decaying estate, the film at least oozes the literary world’s ideas of the nineteenth century. Even Walter Murch stepped in finish editing this one, but it never quite comes together.
So…Entertaining, yes, visually appealing, yes, but compelling and complex, no. But will anyone mind? As the ‘other’ choice to a flimsy feel good film like Valentine’s Day, most audiences might just jump on board to get away from the worse. Will you?